A Millennial Beginner Rider Reviews The 2019 Suzuki SV650X

Hold my avo-toast while I ride Suzuki’s cafe racer.

"It would be great to get Serena on this." My ears perked up like my parent's Czech shepherd's do when the word "pool" is mentioned on a hot summer day. I turned around in my cubicle to see Cycle World's Senior Editor Justin Dawes standing over Suzuki's 2019 SV650X, the cafe racer rendition of the standard SV650. "It would be great to get a beginner's perspective on whether this is a great next step up," Dawes continued.

The SV650X looking pretty posh in the parking lot.Jeff Allen

As a beginner, jumping up the displacement ranks is a little intimidating, though being an owner of a 2018 KTM 390 Duke, I have admittedly gotten a little used to riding my smaller-displacement bike. Don't discredit me yet, though. I have ridden my share of middleweights, and with the scattered experiences I have had on a previous SV650, a big grin always flashed across my face when a twist of the throttle got me easily up to speed quicker than my smaller KTM single. So would this 645cc be a good next step for a newbie? The short answer is yes, but I will lay out some specifics.

First, stalling the engine at a stoplight was one of my main problems as a beginner, so the SV650’s standard-equipped Low RPM Assist function is a welcomed feature. This rider aid works by raising engine rpm as the clutch begins engaging (during takeoff), therefore lessening the chance of a stall and inspiring confidence.

tuck-and-roll-styled seat
The brown, tuck-and-roll-styled seat is plush and comfortable, plus you can share that comfort with a passenger perched on the back.Jeff Allen

As a 6-foot tall beginner, seat height isn’t a big problem for me, but the claimed 31.1-inch-high saddle is approachable and unintimidating (the standard SV650 sits at 30.9 inches). Coming from the 390 Duke with a claimed 32.7-inch seat height, this lower-saddled Suzuki allows me with my 32-inch inseam to more easily flat-foot and even have a good amount of bend at the knee. Shorter-statured riders shouldn’t have much of a problem either, considering the seat height is relatively low in comparison to lightweight sportbikes.

Although the bike is a little hefty during the initial pluck off the kickstand, especially compared to the 362-pound wet weight of the 2018 390 Duke, it carries its 439-pound wet weight well when the wheels start spinning (both weights according to the Cycle World scale). The riding position hunkers the rider's torso down close to the 3.8-gallon tank and keeps you in a great tuck for straightaways and curved bits of tarmac. What more can you ask for when the positioning of grips and pegs do most of the work for you, and get you into that twist-tackling stance?

You might wonder if the ergonomics felt a little cramped for a rider as tall as me, and I am happy to say no, it did not, even after my conscious efforts of shifting into varying degrees of my aggressive riding position.

headlight cowl
The headlight cowl is a must for cafe designs, however, the disconnected side pieces of the fairing were an interesting choice.Jeff Allen

Kudos to Suzuki for embracing the current trend of neo-cafe racers by applying classic elements to its standard bike. As a millennial, I have to say that I do like the charming headlight cowling and the comfortable brown "leather-like" seat. While a part of me wants Suzuki to take the cafe style even further with an extended wraparound fairing like on the BMW R nineT Racer, I appreciate that Suzuki is taking a swing at attracting a variety of demographics with its design. Whether or not it resonates with the enigmatic generational cross section is a question for the ages. I like it, though, and so did my fiancé and family members of all ages when I played show-and-tell.

Suzuki provided us with approximate ergonomic measurements comparing the SV650 and SV650X. Seat-to-bar measurement on the SV650X (indicated in blue) is about 2.5 inches longer the SV650 (indicated in red), pulling you forward into an aggressive riding position. The 33.3-inch peg-to-bar distance keeps you tucked close to the SV650X’s tank.Courtesy of Suzuki

At first I had my reservations about the clip-on handlebars, as they can make it feel as though carpal tunnel is tickling my wrists, but I was pleasantly surprised to find when I took a two-hour-long freeway jaunt I had no complaints. After the first hour riding, my back did get strained but did not ache (perhaps I can thank my 26-year-old body for the lack of post-ride ache).

café racer
Although cafe racers are not designed for the long haul, these clip-on bars were still comfortable because the rider’s weight is not resting as firmly on the wrists like with some of the more extreme cafe competition.Jeff Allen

On my weekend ride, there is one particular freeway transition that is a nice “C” shape, but ends in a sharp angle just before the straightaway. The SV, with its Dunlop Roadsmart III rubber, took this sharp transition with stability and ease, and no matter which portion of the contact patch I was on, the Dunlop tires gripped well when I dropped into the lean and hugged the corner tightly. It exited this corner smoothly and naturally, but it took some effort at the bars to straighten back up. The bike’s capabilities even released a chuckle out of me as I made my way smoothly up to freeway speeds. As the digital blocks blinked their way up the tachometer and the digital speedometer numbers increased on the LCD instrument panel, the engine was exceptionally smooth while still imparting its V-twin personality. Around 8,000 rpm, though, a little bit of a buzz started creeping into the handlebars.

What absorbs the harsh feedback from the road are the telescopic fork and link-type single shock. The suspension components do their job soaking up smaller lips and bumps on California’s patchy highways, but are a little stiff when it comes to bigger cement seams and potholes. With all that said, the bike does continue to hold the intended line well if you come across bumps on a turn.

SV front brakes
When you make the transition to a bigger bike, it is not a bad idea to have ABS. The SV does. Both the front (shown) and rear brakes have sufficient outright stopping power and a gentle initial bite.Jeff Allen

My weekend joy ride down the Southern California coast and inland to Temecula’s Wine Country allowed me to test braking performance as beachgoers clogged the freeway or a distracted winery tourist made an abrupt turn into a winery entrance. The 290mm front disc brakes and four-piston Tokico calipers have sufficient outright power and gentle initial bite. This initial brake response could be a good thing for newer riders, because aggressive response is sometimes unsettling if the application compresses the fork abruptly, for example. The more I ride, the more I appreciate standard ABS, like on the SV650X, as a great safety feature for any rider. When slip comes to slide, traction control would also be a welcome addition here, but it is not included on this model.

cafe in action
Comfortable, confidence-inspiring, and cool cafe looks will have you heading for the canyons every day.Jeff Allen

Whether you are taking a spirited ride on freeways or in canyons, the SV650X delivers confidence-inspiring handling and smooth power delivery. It’s not as nimble as my KTM 390 Duke, particularly at parking-lot speeds, but the SV650X is still pretty easy to handle while simply being a bigger bike with a lot more performance due to its larger engine. Ergonomics are surprisingly comfortable considering the lowish clip-ons, though there is a natural trade-off in comfort versus the standard SV650 since the riding position isn’t as upright. The ever-dependable and versatile SV650 cloaked in sleek cafe clothing is definitely a motorcycle that should be on anyone’s shopping list for their second bike. At the competitive base price of $8,399 this is an investment that will keep the smiles coming and even allow you to hold off on the third-bike purchase for quite some time.

PRICE $8,399
ENGINE 645cc, four-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC, 90-degree V-twin
TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE 6-speed constant mesh
HORSEPOWER 68.2 hp @ 8,900 rpm
TORQUE 42.9 lb.-ft. @ 8,200 rpm
FRAME Steel trellis
FRONT SUSPENSION 41mm conventional fork adjustable for preload; 4.9-in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION Link-type, coil-spring shock adjustable for preload; 2.48- in. travel
FRONT BRAKE 4-piston Tokico calipers, twin 290mm discs w/ ABS
REAR BRAKE 1-piston caliper, single 240mm disc w/ ABS
RAKE/TRAIL 25.0°/4.1 in.
WHEELBASE 56.9 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 31.1 in.
WET WEIGHT 439 lb.
CONSUMPTION 60.2 mpg avg.
CONTACT suzukicycles.com